Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1979

The rug got pulled out from under pop music in 1979, initiating a huge slump that continued all the way through the 80s. The biggest problem was the final, self-destructive flowering of disco, with hardly anything really being listenable apart from France Joli's debut record. Disco stars like the Bee Gees and Donna Summer were selling tons of singles, so 1979 found every major pop act scrambling to get on the disco bandwagon - even English punk pioneers the Clash, whose disco-y third album and even stronger, but heavily reworked debut album both were released in the U.S. Earth, Wind & Fire was still going strong, but even their work was marred with some disco experimentation. At least we can unambiguously recommend a string of punkish, sophisticated New Wave efforts by impressive newcomer Joe Jackson; the Jam; the Police; the Talking Heads; XTC; and most surprisingly Neil Young, who was far more up to date than most rock dinosaurs. We're missing the biggest American New Wave record from this year - Blondie's Eat To The Beat - but otherwise we aren't holding out too much hope.

At least there were a lot of solid funk and R & B records to choose from, including releases by Funkadelic, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. Trouble Funk brought the short-lived go-go fad to a mass audience with its debut album, and although Stevie Wonder's Secret Life Of Plants got panned by critics who were fed up with the three-year wait, in retrospect it's a fine listen.

Bummers? Elton John was probably the most prominent victim (ahem) of the disco craze, releasing his worst album ever - but Aretha Franklin was just as far off track. Weather Report's double live album should have proved to everyone that 70s jazz fusion was a mistake. ELP's live album wasn't much better. Almost nothing good came out of the 60s superstar machine: George Harrison's latest album was tripe, Smokey Robinson had an undeserved commercial comeback, and a lot of acts simply stayed quiet, including Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and even some New Wave leaders like Elvis Costello. And apart from the success of gimmick acts like the Knack ("My Sharona"), the weirdest story of all was Eagles, who dominated the charts with an amazingly crass and obnoxious send-off album. (JA)

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